SAN JOSE -- It's all up for grabs at Rise Technology Co. After it bowed out of the Microprocessor Forum Tuesday, executives at the x86 microprocessor startup said the company's entire future is in doubt.
Only two months after Rise's chairman and CEO, David T. Lin, expressed optimism about the low end of the PC market, executives said the company's product portfolio may be completely overhauled, as may Rise's strategic direction. The uncertainty, coupled with the questions rshadowing Centaur Technology and Cyrix Corp. after their acquisition by Via Technologies Inc., creates new questions about which company will be the chip supplier for low-end PCs.
Rise canceled a scheduled presentation here at the Microprocessor Forum amid word from analyst Michael Slater of MicroDesign Resources, the forum's sponsor, that the company is reevaluating its product strategy. Joe Salvador, senior marketing manager at Rise, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said that means reassessing whether products like the mP6-II and Tiger, which Rise was scheduled to describe here, will ever ship.
"As far as the mP6-II and Tiger are concerned, the question is does it make sense to bring these products to market?" Salvador said. For now, however, the company's plans are to disclose more details, and potential customers, at the Fall Comdex exhibition next month in Las Vegas.
So what happened? According to Salvador, the company began questioning itself after Via's plans to integrate its chip sets with the two processor cores the company acquired came to light. "We've also been getting lots of people coming to us, asking us when we're going to do a system-on-a-chip," he said. "We have to evaluate where integration makes sense."
For its part, executives at Via have remained tight-lipped about their plans. Glenn Henry, the former president of Centaur, wasn't too forthcoming in a panel discussion held here. "The first element of our strategy is that we're going to stay at the low end," he said. "We still have two design groups. Cyrix has had some layoffs, but they're still in business. And we have two new processors under development for next year." The third component is to integrate the north bridge of the chip set and the microprocessor, Henry said.
From Salvador's perspective, the attributes that made Rise so technically attractive as a discrete chip supplier also hold true for integration: namely, the core's 4-W power consumption when running typical applications. Centaur's WinChip 4, the company's highest-performance offering and a core that observers assume will be integrated with Via's north bridge, consumes much more power. "Nobody can come close [to us] in power consumption," Salvador said.
But that also means Rise will have to acquire, license, or otherwise obtain the additional third-party graphics cores, interfaces, and other IP that is necessary to create an SOC product. Salvador said his company does not have the resources for that kind of design work.
So is everything at Rise in flux? "I think that would be fair to say," Salvador said.